Great Sand Dunes, Clear Creek Falls, and Colorado Fall Colours

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Pulled into Great Sand Dunes National Monument late, and slept through the rising moon over dunes, and then sunrise as well. I'm no photographer, I just like take pictures. Got up eventually, and had breakfast before going down to the visitor center and the dunes. Unlike any other national park I'd ever been to, the rules here were, "Go wherever the hell you please" It was like being at the beach, and in spring and early summer, when the creek is still running, that's apparently what it's like, people in swimmers, kids playing in the sand, all getting some sun. The visitor center even had a changing room and outdoor rinse showers, like a beach in Australia.

Went out walking into the dunes armed to the gills with camera, tripod, lots of water, food, gps, everything. It really was fairly hard to get lost, walk back towards the mountains that rise straight up above the east edge, and you're back at your car. Quite heavy going, you really need to stick to the ridges and fall lines, and try and walk very flat footed. The sand is very dry and soft on top, and just slides away whenever you try and walk up it. Lots of slippage, and lots of sand in my socks. It was a little hot to be walking in bare feet unfortunately.

Much to my suprise, after crossing the first ridge line, getting onto the ridge with the highest dunes, there was quite a bit of plant life in the valleys. Much like dunes everywhere else really, but from the visitor center, the dunes seem completely barren. Real desert like. The plant life was mostly grasses and the like, but also quite a number of sunflowers, all looking radiantly yellow and bold against the sand.

Had a lovely chat to a Law Enforcement Ranger, out for a stroll and a chat on top of High Dune, then it was time to run/roll/fall back down the big dune slopes back towards the car and onwards again. Got to see american magpies in the carpark, which are actually very pretty birds, with flashes of navy blue under their tail and wings, and seemingly intelligent without being evil like australian magpies. A very nice park indeed.

Drove back out through the San Luis Valley, the longest flattest roads I'd seen in a very long time, got a speeding ticket from the Colorado State Troopers, and drove up towards Lake City, in central Colorado, where I was planning on ticking some peaks the next day. On the way, stopped numerous times through Wagon Wheel Canyon, Big Horn Canyon and everywhere else that looked interesting, looking at the geology, the historical markers, and the fall colours in the trees. Beautiful aspens intermingled with the spruce and fir.

Just before getting to Lake City, I also passed the lovely Clear Creek Falls. They reminded of Oxley Wild Rivers, a waterfall that just appears out of nowhere in flat grazing land, cutting a gorge downstream for itself.

Footsteps in the sand

Lonely flowers

High Dune over sand

Sand sand sand

Sangre de Cristos over sand dunes

Chinese Wall

Windblown footsteps

Critters of the dune